Stevens to speak on magic, witchcraft

Published March 28, 2019

UB anthropologist Phillips Stevens Jr. will give two talks at the Center for Inquiry (CFI) Western New York that focus on two of his specialty areas: magic and witchcraft.

The first, Magical Thinking, Inherently Human,” will take place at 7 p.m. March 29. Stevens will argue that magic — a system of beliefs in mystical causation — is rooted in human evolutionary biology, and therefore, magical thinking is natural. A first job of the development of modern science was to counter magical thinking, he says.

The second talk, “Classical Witchcraft, Inherently Human,” will be held at 7 p.m. April 5, and will examine the phenomenon of witchcraft — a system of beliefs in a set of powers vested in certain people. The focus of Stevens’ talk will not be on modern pagan religions such as Wicca, but rather on the 14 attributes of the ethnological/historical witch. He will argue that these attributes constitute universal human fears and fantasies, and are ultimately rooted in human evolutionary biology.

Stevens retired from UB in January. He taught one of the anthropology department’s most popular courses, “Magic, Sorcery, and Witchcraft,” and is currently writing a book on the topic.

Both talks will take place at CFI headquarters at 1310 Sweet Home Road, Amherst. Refreshments will be served.

The cost of the lectures is $5 for the public; CFI members may attend free of charge.

These talks are part of a series of monthly educational lectures hosted by CFI Western New York.